Lemon Curd

 

Where I grew up in Los Angeles, we had lots of citrus trees. Most mornings my mother would take me to school. As we’d walk through the garden to the driveway, I’d see pieces of orange peel everywhere. The squirrels loved our oranges and frequently left their spongy remains scattered across the lawn. Our lemons were so large and yellow and knobbly, they looked like they belonged in an Arcimboldo painting. Every summer we’d use them to make the most refreshing lemonade.

Friends of ours had a meyer lemon tree and their neighbour, an old Scottish woman, would make delicious lemon curd out of them. I’ll never forget the first time I tasted it–cold, tart, sweet, custardy, creamy, and refreshing. I had been swimming with friends on a sweltering day when we emerged from the pool and were offered lemon curd with blackberries for a snack. It was bliss in a single bite.

Not until I moved to London did I try making my own. Rather silly, I know, as it’s really quite simple. Recently, it’s become a family favourite. My daughter has it in yoghurt for breakfast. We eat it with buttermilk biscuits or scones for elevenses or afternoon tea. It’s also divine in tarts or used as a filling for cakes. This weekend, it will top an Easter pavlova.

Below is my recipe and I hope you like it. Be sure to use the best lemons and eggs you can get. I like Burford Brown eggs because of their golden yolks which lend their colour to the curd.

I know lemon curd is British, but for me its flavour will always be California.

 

Ingredients:

the zest and juice of 4 unwaxed lemons

280 g caster sugar (more or less depending on how much sweetness you like)

100 g unsalted butter

4 eggs lightly mixed

 

Method: 

Whisk together the juice, zest, sugar, and butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat.

Once it begins to boil, remove it from the heat.

Let the mixture cool for a few minutes before adding the eggs. If you don’t, you’ll end up with scrambled eggs in your lemon curd which is disgusting. You’ll also have to start the recipe again. I usually wait until the mixture is just hot enough to touch.

Then slowly whisk in a bit of the egg. Then a bit more. Whisk, whisk, whisk to incorporate.

Heat the mixture once again over low heat. Keep whisking. Once it bubbles and thickens enough to coat a wooden spoon, it’s ready.

Push the mixture through a sieve to remove any lumps or eggy bits.

Finally, pour the lemon curd into sterilised jars and seal. This recipe makes about 2 jars.

Lemon curd will last about two weeks in the refrigerator.

 

Sausage Rolls

There are two things that almost always make me feel better–Neil Young and sausage rolls. Before I moved to the U.K., I rarely ate pork. I grew up in Los Angeles where turkey bacon and chicken sausage were the norm. It’s not that I never ate pork, I just rarely did. For me, it was something to be enjoyed but once a year, usually covered in a spicy vinegary Carolina barbecue sauce on the fourth of July.

My first year in London, I went pork crazy. A fact I attribute to our flat’s proximity to The Ginger Pig. I wanted bacon every weekend and pork chops most nights. Fish? Sure. Just cook it with some chorizo. Then I discovered sausage rolls. Which can be horrible, but when done right are divine.

For a long time I stayed away as my only reference was the pre-packaged kind I saw in the refrigerator aisles of supermarkets. The pastry looked sad. The meat inside seemed a better fit for house pet consumption than human.

Eventually, it was a sausage roll from a local cafe that changed my mind.

Sausage rolls are amazing because they are made with humble ingredients but yield a taste that is all luxury. They are the ultimate bar snack or perfect picnic food. Or in our house, my daughter’s favourite for weekend tea.

Below is my recipe. It doesn’t call for homemade puff pastry because at 35, I cannot be bothered. Father Time is robbing me blind and I have got to get on with other things. But if you have it on hand or like to make it, please do.

Ingredients:

1 sheet of puff pastry

700 grams of sausage (I use my favourite sausages instead of plain minced pork because I like the way they’re seasoned)

6 rashers of pancetta or bacon

1 small tart apple (I use a cox)

1 small bulb of fennel and its fronds, chopped

1 small onion, finely chopped

1 tablespoon Tio Pepe sherry or dry white wine

1 tablespoon fresh thyme

1/2 teaspoon toasted fennel seeds, ground

1 piece of toast put through a food processor and turned into breadcrumbs

2 eggs

salt/pepper

fennel pollen (optional)

nigella/sesame seeds

 

Method: 

Pre-heat the oven to Gas 4/350°F/177°C.

Fry the pancetta in a skillet. When it’s done, remove the rashers but keep the grease. Roughly chop the pancetta and place it in a large bowl.

Cook the onion and fennel in the bacon dripping. Add the sherry and cook a minute more with the thyme.

Put the onions, fennel, thyme, and fennel fronds in the bowl with the pancetta. Add the bread crumbs. Squeeze the meat out of the sausage casings and add this as well, along with 1 egg, the apple, some seasoning, and a pinch of fennel pollen if you have it. Mix well with your hands.

filling

Unroll the puff pastry. Fill the center of it with the sausage mixture. Roll it up.

Lightly beat the 2nd egg and brush it on top of the pastry. Don’t use all of it. Just enough to lightly coat it. Sprinkle with seeds and cut into pieces. Usually 8 -10.

Bake for approximately 40 minutes or until golden brown.

While you can eat these hot, I think they taste better at room temperature and dipped in brown sauce or your favourite relish.

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Rhubarb and Strawberry Sunday

 

I love the Home Counties.  For me, they hold great charm.  Village fêtes, farm shops, afternoons sipping cider at the pub, bake sales, plant sales, hedgehog sanctuaries, Sunday lunch, cricket teas, thirsty vicars, vintage cars, and the scent of wood burning fires wherever you go.

Walking past Shardeloes en route to The Red Lion makes me feel like I am deep in the country. The truth, though, is that I am only an hour outside of London.  It’s brilliant and gives me a proper excuse to wear my wellies without looking like a knob.

This weekend in the Garden of Eatin’ (that’s what I call my in-laws’ backyard as it is so full of edible goodness), my daughter explained the difference between bluebells and forget-me-nots to her stuffed friend, Little Bear.  There was also an overabundance of rhubarb. When my mother-in-law asked me to help by cutting it for her, I was happy to be of service.

8 jars of jam and a crumble to be eaten later tonight was our yield.  And to think, there’s still plenty left.

Below is my recipe for today’s rhubarb and strawberry jam.  The strawberries I used were not our own, but they were British (Honi soit qui mal y pense) and came from 2 of the home counties–Kent and Berkshire.

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Ingredients:

3 lbs rhubarb, cut into 1″ pieces

1 lb strawberries, halved

juice of 2 lemons

1 cup apple juice

1.2 kg sugar

1 tbsp butter

 

Method: 

First, place a small plate in the freezer.  This is so you can test your jam later to see if it’s set.

Wash then sterilize your jars by placing them on a tray in a warm oven.

Place the rhubarb, lemon juice, and apple juice in a maslin pan.  Bring to a boil and simmer for about 10 minutes.  The reason for this is twofold. 1) Rhubarb takes longer to cook than strawberries.  2) Both rhubarb and strawberries have such low pectin that the addition of apple juice, which naturally has high pectin, will help your jam set.

Turn off the heat and stir in the berries and the sugar.  Stir until all the sugar has dissolved.

Turn the heat back on and bring everything to a boil.

Test for a set by placing a bit of the molten mixture on your frozen plate.  Place the plate back in the freezer.  Remove it after a few minutes.  If the jam crinkles when you push it with your finger, then it has set.  If not, continue cooking for a few more minutes and test again.  Be sure to turn off the heat each time you test for a set.  You do not want to overcook your jam.

Once a desired set has been achieved, stir in the butter.  This will prevent your jam from being scummy.

Let the jam cool for at least 5 minutes before potting it in warm jars.

 

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What Does an American Wear . . .

to The Young British Foodies Awards?  Because I’m going and it’s got me smilin’ like a possum eatin’ a sweet potato!  Honestly, I am pleased as punch to have made the food writing finals and I cannot wait for what promises to be an amazing night.  As the bébés down South say, laissez les bons temps rouler!